October 17th, 2017 | 3 MIN READ

Shop with Your Steering Wheel: 3 Opportunities in Connected Car Commerce

Written by author_profile_images Harry Chemko

Harry Chemko is CEO of Elastic Path Software, a leading provider of commerce software designed to maximize revenue from the next generation of digital experiences.

We are entering the age of connected car commerce. Buckle your seatbelts.

Gartner predicts that by 2020, 80% of vehicles (roughly 250 million cars) will be connected to the Internet of Things.

These hypermobile devices will come complete with hardware, operating systems and app-driven utilities that can support a variety of payments on the go.

“The industry crossed a critical threshold in the first quarter of 2016, with the quiet but dramatic announcement of a statistic that few noted at the time,” reports Tech Crunch. “The net adds of connected cars (32%) rose above the net adds of smartphones (31%).” Industry experts see that the mobile market has hit saturation. Connected cars offer a new growth engine – pun intended.

Big car manufacturers like Ford, Honda, General Motors, Jaguar, Toyota and Tesla are already experimenting with connected commerce capabilities.


1. Location-triggered recommendations

GM’s At Your Service connects OnStar subscribers with partnered retailers, hospitality and service providers, when and where they need them. For example, requesting directions to a point of interest can trigger personalized recommendations, offers and discounts from businesses like Dunkin Donuts for a re-fuel, Audiobooks.com to take the edge of the long drive or gridlock, Priceline for last-minute hotel bookings, and Parkopedia to find the closest (and cheapest) open spaces.

2. On-the-go booking and payment

Jaguar’s XE and XF models support in-car payments in partnership with Shell stations, with plans to support e-wallets Apple Pay and Android Pay. Ford’s Fordpass mobile payment app has partnered with Chicago’s ParkWhiz to reserve and pay for parking spots in advance. Luxe and Tesla have teamed up to offer New Yorkers valet parking, charging and add-on services like car wash, overnight parking, and drive-home service – all booked through a mobile app.

3. Contactless payments

You never have to let go of the steering wheel. Visa and Accenture are working on a proof of concept that supports contactless payments that don’t need interaction with a touchscreen. Using IVR (interactive voice response), sensors and beacons, drivers can search for nearby amenities, reserve and pre-pay for services, and place and pay for orders – all while keeping your hands on the wheel and your credit cards in your wallets. As with the Uber app, pilot merchants like Pizza Hut can receive alerts when you’re about to arrive. Your pizza will be ready at the window, hot and fresh.

The connected car is not just a big mobile phone

Cars have unique opportunities for commerce capabilities, reports Tech Crunch.

• Bigger interactive surface. Nearly every surface in the car can become interactive: the instrumentational panel, backseat or rider-side infotainment screens. Even car windows can become augmented reality screens.

• Portable data centers with powerful computing capacity. Pokemen Go’s extensive use of augmented reality and GPS sucked the life out of your phone battery but could run without any problem on a car.

• Consumer habits.  Car owners are already used to monthly expenses like fuel and maintenance, so paying an additional connectivity fee won’t be a difficult sell.

New roads ahead

Car ecommerce is still in its early years. Who is leading the race? A KPMG survey of 200 automotive executives saw BMW as the early champion, followed by Daimler, General Motors, Toyota and Tesla. Tech companies like AT&T, Microsoft, Google and Apple are also investing heavily in this new technology. Nobody wants to be left behind in the dust.

How else will the Internet of Things change ecommerce? Download our ebook, The Future of Commerce to get the full report.

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